Because,’ she said, ‘when you’re scared but you still do it anyway, that’s brave.”
—Neil Gaiman, Coraline
Most people think that in order to start something, you’ve got to be brave. You have to overcome fear. But that’s not true at all.
If I know anything about making difference, about stepping up and taking risks, it’s this: you’ve got to learn to do it afraid.
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The fear that holds us back
A reader named Gregory submitted this question:
How do you get started?
What a great question.
How do you start something, anything, that you’re putting off? How do you not stall and do work that matters? Our struggle comes down to fear.
We are all familiar with the hold that fear has on our lives. We know the power we sometimes give to the things that scare us. But we forget there are actually two fears that should concern us:
- There’s the fear of doing something and failing. Maybe you’ll get rejected, maybe people will make fun of you. Maybe you’ll die.
- There’s the fear of not trying, which is really about regret.
So the question is this: Are you more afraid to fail… or not try?
The first girl I ever asked out
The first girl I ever asked out was a cheerleader named Katie — and I almost didn’t do it.
Why? Because I was afraid.
In fact, the day I decided to do it, I had already given up. Fear had gotten the best of me, and I was on my way out the door.
And as I was getting ready to leave the school, get in my car, and drive away, something stopped me. I realized that I would regret not doing this more than any embarrassment it might cost me. I had to try.
So what did I do? I turned around.
And over the course of about 30 seconds, I marched across the gym, walked up to Katie, and blurted something to her that I still can’t remember to this day.
After a prolonged silence, she said yes and then walked away. Taking a few steps, she then turned around to say three words I’ll never forget:
It’s about time.
The art of getting brave
The way we build courage is by taking action, by staring something in the face that could fail — and doing it, anyway.
So how does this work? How do you face fear and start something, even when you’re afraid? It’s a three-step process:
- Decide to decide. Commit to following through, before you begin.
- Decide how to decide. Set the parameters. How long will you wait, how much information will you collect, when will you do it? Knowing this will help you not stall.
- Do it. This is the hardest and most important part — you must follow through and accept the consequences.
It’s not the result of the choice that makes us brave. That’s not up to us. It’s the choice to do something we’re afraid of — that’s what makes us win, regardless of the outcome.
So what’re you waiting for? It’s time to get started.
Note: In this episode of the Portfolio Life, we also covered how to launch an eBook, what I’m currently working on, and more! Make sure you listen to the whole episode to get the goods.
How we apply this lesson to our lives
As silly as it sounds, I just started something I was afraid to ship: this podcast. And I’d love for you to leave an honest review.
You can also copy and paste this URL into the podcast player of your choice: https://feeds.feedburner.com/ThePortfolioLifeJeffGoins.
Also, if you have any questions for future episodes like this one, let me know (just shoot an email to jeff at goinswriter dot com).
Lastly, I want to hear something you’re trying to start. Leave a comment below. And if you’re enjoying the podcast, please tweet about it or share it with your friends on Facebook.
Here are some resources and links mentioned in the podcast:
- The Difference between Starting and Dreaming
- The In-Between
- The Essential Guide to Writing and Sharing an eBook
What’s something you’re wanting to start, but fear has been holding you back? Share in the comments.